Kristin Hardy – “Under the Mistletoe”

13 Jul

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Mills & Boon Special, 2007

WHY THIS NOVEL: I like Kristin Hardy’s novels.

The back blurb:
“The devastatingly handsome manager of the Hotel Mount Jefferson, Gabe Trask, was eager to offer a wide array of amenities to Hadley Stone when he thought she was a holiday guest. But once Gabe learned that she was really there as representative of the company that had just acquired his hotel, Hadley expected him to really be in her face. And he was – just not in the way she’d imagined …
For Gabe knew that despite all her down-to-business talk, Hadley was a romantic at heart – one whom he was inexplicably finding hard to resist. And he could see in her eyes that the feeling was becoming mutual. Now all he had to do was convince her to leave her business instincts at the door – and focus on the personal …”

There’s nothing better than to read a novel set in winter, and at Christmas, than when it’s scorching hot outside. At least, it was that hot when I read this novel at the end of June.

Under the Mistletoe is the second in Kristin Hardy’s trilogy about the Trask brothers. Since this is an older category novel, I can’t get my hands on the first one anymore. I’m a bit miffed at that because with just the few novels I read by Hardy, she changed from being an author I bought at first for the story (first time last autumn) to an auto-buy author. She’s one of the two authors I can imagine writing an email to (in which I then would probably just gush about how much I like her books). Anyway, I’m happy that Mills & Boon are behind the American schedule with Kristin Hardy’s books.

Under the Mistletoe is all Hadley’s story despite that it doesn’t sound like that from the summary on the back. The reader is introduced to Hadley in the prologue, where she gets a new job assignment because her father wasn’t happy about her work. Right then, it’s clear that Hadley comes from a background where meeting standards and goals was all that counted.

“For as long as she could remember, he’d [her father] orchestrated her life – her school, her friends, her career. Relentless standards, unyielding discipline and occasional and unpredictable praise, doled out just often enough to make her knock herself out to earn more. Another child might have rebelled. Hadley only worked harder to be the heir Robert wanted, a stand-in for the son he’d never had.” (p. 8)

This kind of upbringing coloured everything in her life. consequently, she views love and romantic relationships as something for the movies and sums up her view of them with: “It all depended on what you could do for people” (p. 21).

Gabe’s upbringing in a loving family and his view of love and relationships contrasts with that: “Relationships had always seemed simple to Gabe. You were interested in a woman, you asked her out. If it worked, you kept at it until it no longer did. Eventually, you found a keeper” (p. 56). He’s also person who likes to fix things and to take care of people.

So in the prologue, Hadley gets assigned to bring the Hotel Mount Jefferson up to the profit standards of Stone Enterprises. The hotel was owned by Hadley’s grandfather, who was estranged from his family but nevertheless left all to his son, Hadley’s father. For Hadley, this assignment is a demotion:

“Opportunity, her father had said. More like banishment, Hadley thought, as she swung into a curve on the narrow road that threaded through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. From vice president of one of the most high profile divisions at Stone to triage specialist for an antiquated hotel out in the sticks with the squirrels and chipmunks. Forget the flights to Zürich, Cape Town and Buenos Aires. Now it was Montpelier, Vermont, which was still nearly and hour and a half from the hotel. No direct flights there.” (p. 12)

Since this is the beginning of the story, it’s clear that Hadley at least comes to questions her reaction to her new assignment (if not more). The first time she sees the hotel, her jaw drops: “The Hotel Mount Jefferson perched on the hillside like a white castle, a sprawling fantasy of turrets and porticos. The roof glowed red under the rays of the winter sun. Flags atop the towers snapped in the breeze.” (p.17) I picture it as similar to the The Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise, Canada, albeit probably (*grin*) a bit smaller.

In the story, the hotel is almost an entity on its own. It’s the place her grandfather was happy before he lost his family due to his workaholic lifestyle and realized to late what was important to him; it’s the place Hadley has to prove herself to her father yet again; it’s the place Gabe loves to work at because it lets him fix things daily; it’s a place out of a dream; it’s a place for romance. It’s the place that symbolizes the conflict Hadley faces: how do you relate to other people (and things)?

Under the Mistletoe is a tightly plotted story. Every chapter, every scene advances the plot and changes things. I love how Hardy uses a scene to accomplish different things at once; like in Gabe’s conversation with his brother after he meets Hadley’s in her role as representative of Stone Enterprises (their official meeting). This conversation shows Gabe’s caring and fixing side, relates what’s happening with his brother and his girlfriend (hero in the first book in the trilogy), gives Gabe’s thoughts on the situation at the hotel without having to resort to heavy introspection, develops Gabe’s strategy to keep the hotel the way it is, … I thought about quoting from this conversation because I like Hardy’s way with dialogue but my comments are way too long already and I can’t decide where to cut, so no.

I also like that Hardy’s characters are adults. Even though at the end of chapter 3, it looks like Gabe and Hadley are on full confrontation course over the hotel, in their next meeting there’s nothing aggressive. They both know what they want and where they stand but nevertheless, Gabe works with Hadley and not against her to meet the new profit standards. And I like the fact that in this story, the woman is the business shark character and Gabe is the caring and nurturing character. It’s almost like a role reversal even though in the end, Hadley leaves her high profile job behind. But that happens more because of her character development than just because it was needed for the HEA. She doesn’t just role over, and this has to do with what she thought at the beginning about relationships: “It all depended on what you could do for people.” She doesn’t play like that any longer, even if it means confronting and losing her father and Gabe. I think it’s neat that it also ties with the symbol thing Hardy has going with the hotel.

The romance between Hadley and Gabe is a nice one. Their first meeting is “unofficial” – they don’t know how the other is related to the hotel. Gabe takes Hadley for a guest, so he’s wary, but they’re attracted to each other then. This meeting gives Gabe the chance to see the Hadley behind the “business” Hadley. After their “official” meeting, they both act professional (no romantic involvement) but it gets more difficult with each day. I liked the way Hardy developed the romance. I thought it progressed in a nice and believable way. And I liked Hadley’s great moment at the end (see the paragraph before): it felt right.

I marked this novel as 4,5 / 5 in my notes, although I can’t remember why. And really, it doesn’t matter to me. I still think Under the Mistletoe is a damn fine thing. And that’s all that counts, IMO.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Yes.

Grade: 4,5 / 5


One Response to “Kristin Hardy – “Under the Mistletoe””


  1. Best Of 2008: Books and Games (And More) « Books and Games - Wednesday, December 31, 2008

    […] Brooks – The Billionaire’s Marriage Mission Kresley Cole – Dark Needs at Night’s Edge Kristin Hardy – Under the Mistletoe Caroline Linden – What a Duke Wants Liz Maverick – Wired Nora Roberts – Inner Habor Linnea Sinclair […]

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